Google Chrome OS press event, 11/19
by Jon Fortt
I'm at Google (GOOG), ready for the Chrome OS press event to begin.
They're telling us they're getting started a little late because attendees got caught in traffic.
Sundar Pichai is at the lectern. He says Google is a year away from launching Chrome OS, but they want to show off what they've done so far. (Big disappointment here; blogs had spread rumors that this was a launch.) They're open sourcing the project, and the code will be totally open.)
Chrome for Mac will be ready before the end of the year, he says, plus Chrome for Linux. There are also Chrome extensions coming. He claims the extensions won't slow down the browser and that Google will automatically update them.
Google is trying to figure out a way that web applications can take advantage of the same computing resources that mainstream client apps have. He says Google is trying to make sure web apps have access to graphics processors so 3D games can run in the browser. Google is also working on multithreading, real-time communication and a database API for local storage.
Now he's talking about a "perfect storm" of converging trends that he argues are creating demand for something like Chrome OS. Consumers are flocking to netbooks because they're a cheap way to get online. More people are "living on the cloud," or running most of their programs through the Internet, not their local machines. Phones are getting smarter, laptops are becoming more like phones with all-day battery life and thin, lightweight designs.
Google is asking whether there's a better model of personal computing. Google is focused on three things:
Speed, simplicity and security.
Google wants it to be instant-on, like a TV. Google's Chrome browser will be especially fast. "Chrome on Chrome OS is blazing fast," he says, immediately raising questions about whether they need to change the name of either the browser or the OS.
Every app in Chrome OS will be a web app, he says. The data will live in the cloud, so if you lose your machine you can get a new one and just pull down all of your data and preferences.
Now he's showing it. The OS looks just like a browser. He says the final version won't look exactly like it does today, but some features will carry through:
APPLICATION TABS: Just like the Chrome browser, this OS has tabs for navigation. You can put favorites up there, and they always stay in place. (I hope there's a full-screen mode to make these go away, or games won't work well.) There's also a menu showing all of the apps.
PANELS: There are little windows that pop up, like Gmail chat or Facebook chat, that persist across applications. All data will live in the cloud, so everything you put on the screen will be instantly available anywhere.
Now he's pulling up a chess game that's written in Flash. Now he's pulling up a book, Alice in Wonderland. (There is a full-screen mode, which answers my question about those persistent tabs.)
He's pulling up a Youtube video to show that flash works, and he's showing how you can navigate between different windows. Looks pretty intuitive, but he's plowing through it so fast it's tough to tell.
Now he's showing that Chrome OS works on the web, and that if you have an Excel file but don't have Excel, it opens just fine with Microsoft's Live Office web-based software. "Microsoft just launched a killer app for Chrome OS," he jokes, and quickly clarifies that he's a Google Spreadsheets user.
He shows that PDFs open very quickly from the web, right there in the browser.